ScotCHEM engages in internationally competitive research. Our work spans diverse fields ranging from fundamental studies to applied science and engineering. We attracted £150m in research funding during the last assessment period. ScotCHEM has 200 academics, training a cohort of around 650 PhD students.

What follows is a general description of each of our Research Themes, more detailed descriptions are available on the  ScotCHEM departmental websites.

The Chemistry-Biology Interface

chembiolThe Chemistry/Biology Interface area is broad. Particular strengths include; protein structure and function, mechanistic enzymology, proteomics and biologically targeted synthesis. Of special interest is the application of high-throughput and combinatorial approaches. Another strength is biophysical chemistry. This focuses on the development and application of physicochemical techniques to biological systems.

Molecular Synthesis and Catalysis

catalysis_and_synthesisMolecular synthesis encompasses the synthesis and characterisation of organic and inorganic compounds. This may be under ambient or extreme conditions. Application areas include; homogeneous catalysis, nanotechnology, supramolecular chemistry, drug discovery, and ligand design.  A key feature is the development of innovative methods for synthesis and characterisation. This is especially true for structural chemistry.

Nanoscience and Materials Chemistry

This theme spans the traditional chemistry core topics of organic, inorganic and physical chemistry. Current research includes:


  • biomaterials and biodegradable polymers
  • ionic liquids
  • the solid-state NMR of inorganic materials
  • biosensing
  • bionanophotonics
  • microporous solids
  • polymer synthesis and functionalisation
  • single molecule magnets
  • photovoltaic materials
  • liquid crystals and micelles
  • functional electronic and magnetic materials
  • sustainable energy and hydrogen storage materials
  • inorganic nanomaterial synthesis including self-assembly
  • molecular devices

Experimental and Theoretical Chemical Physics

EDINBURGH UNIVERSITYChemical Physics is the fundamental study of molecular properties and processes. Our surface science group study the behaviour of complex molecules on surfaces. This is important to probe the structure-property relationships employed in heterogeneous catalysis. We also develop physicochemical techniques such as mass spectroscopy for application to molecular systems. Further areas of expertise include molecular structure in the gas phase; clusters, and nanoparticles. In-Silico Scotland, a world-class research computing facility, underpins our activity.

Complex Chemical Systemscomplexchem

Complex chemical systems are fascinating. We aim to construct complex functional molecular architectures from non-biological building blocks.

Dynamics and Structure

Our research includes:


  • ultrafast chemical physics
  • photonic and metamaterials for biosensing
  • photochemistry and chemical dynamics
  • solid state NMR
  • the visualisation and manipulation of chemical structures
  • biomolecular structure and dynamics.

Drug Discovery Unit

dduDundee’s Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) is a fully operational and integrated drug discovery group. The DDU working across many disease areas. We collaborate to translate world-class biology research into novel drug targets and candidate drugs. We aim to address unmet medical need across our two areas of activity. These are Diseases of the Developing World and Innovative Targets Portfolio. Building on success in these areas we are also developing an Antimicrobial Resistance Portfolio.

Analytical and Forensic Science

analyticalandforesnsicThe ability to detect specific molecules and elements underpins our research. This is important for environmental and conservation science, controlling industrial processes, and medical diagnostics. Our Centre for Forensic Science is internationally recognised. We deliver excellence in forensic education, research, and practice.